Wrapping up civil discourse: The End of LEAP FROG


It’s been a long series on civil discourse — lasting longer than an actual civil discourse would, I imagine.  Ten posts in all, including today’s.  Here they are, in one spot.


[learn_more caption=”CLICK HERE FOR THE LINKS TO THE EARLIER POSTS “] February 22 Civil Discourse in the New Age

March 1        Is Civil Discourse Dead? Part 1: The L     L is for Listen

March 15      Is Civil Discourse Out of Your Reach? LEAP FROG, Part 2    E is for Empathy

March 22      How to Take Care of Yourself in This Age of Incivility: LEAP FROG, Part 3   A is for Assess

March 29      How Can You Present Your Ideas? LEAP FROG, Part 4    P is for Present your own ideas

April 12        When Incivility Runs Amok: LEAP FROG, Part 5   F is for Facts (forget them, they won’t help)

April 19        LEAP FROG In the Age of Incivility, Part 6    R is for Respect (the conversation)

May 3           Observing the Other: LEAP FROG Continues, Part 7   O is for Observe

May 10      Finding Civil Discourse in This Age of Incivility LEAP FROG: Part 8    G is for Gratitude


As we end, I’m aware that I’m ending now having more questions than I had last February when we began. Here are the ones I’ve written down.

How might I best balance self-care with activism?
How do we counter specific lies and address false statements?
How can we use silence effectively, not as a wedge?
What is the best setting for holding a civil discourse?
Who initiates a civil discourse?
When or how should we agree to the terms of the discourse?
What is the nature, cause, and consequence of incivility?
What’s really important about civil discourse? Why do we bother?

Perhaps you too have been left with more questions than answers. If so, I’d love to have you add them in the Comments below.  Thanks.

It’s been a long journey and I thank you for taking it with me.

I want to leave you with this video clip of the song Mercy Now, written and sung by Mary Gauthier.  The lyrics follow in one of those drop down boxes.



[learn_more caption=”The lyrics to Mercy Now”]My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground.
His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around.
I love my father, he could use some mercy now


My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom, he’s shackled to his fear and his doubt.
The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow.
I love my bother, he could use some mercy now


My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out.
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down.
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now


Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud.
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown.
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now.


(One minute music interlude from 3:20 to 4:20)


Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now.
I know we don’t deserve it, but we  need it anyhow.
We hang in the balance, dangled between hell and hallowed ground.
And every single one of us could use some mercy now.
Every single one of us could use some mercy now.
Every single one of us could use some mercy now.


How are you?  Don’t forget to add the questions on civil discourse that remain for you. 


19 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet!
    I think your first two questions are the ones that I’ve thought about the most. I feel like I should be more active, but I’ve also felt overwhelmed (and it does take time).

    This stanza–except I don’t want to think it’s only the hand of grace that can end it. It has to be us.

    “Every living thing could use a little mercy now
    Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud.
    People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown.
    I love life and life itself could use some mercy now.”

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Merril. You hit my favorite lines of the song too.” People in power, they’ll do anything …”

      That is why vigilance is so important, I believe. But then I’ve been a political hack for a very long time. But only from afar. An armchair political hack? I once worked for a Congressman during a campaign year and hated the hustle and bustle, the intensity of it. Discussing political theory over a glass of wine or a cup of tea; that’s more my speed.

      Thanks for starting us off.

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I agree with Merril, the hand of grace can be a force for good to combat all the negativity. The hand of grace and “mercy now.” (I listened to Mr Gauthier’s song all the way through.)

    Right now I have to attend to self-care which takes priority over activism: Sunday we lost a beloved family member.

    Brava to you, Janet, for digging deep with well-researched posts in this series.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. I read this this morning, before leaving for Philadelphia, and your Aunt Ruth has been on my mind all day. I’m so sorry for your loss. And, I feel it’s my loss too, in a small way. I feel I’ve come to know her and would have liked her very much had we had the chance to visit. I hope someone says that about me when I’m gone. I send you hugs from down the road.

  3. Anna
    | Reply

    Self preservation is an interesting term. What exactly it mean?
    Does it mean “I’m all right, Jack”, when all that matters is your and only your wellbeing?
    Does it mean stepping up for your family, your community, the common good?

    At what point preserving your selfesteem, even your soul becomes more important than preserving your physical body?

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Anna,
      You ask an important question and I can see how it might be misunderstood. By self-care (taking care of ourselves first) I mean no more than putting on your own oxygen mask first when you’re sitting on the airplane and it’s going down, before you help those around you. We are of no good to anyone when we run ourselves ragged. So, in that sense, self-care is a means by which we can continue the struggle over the long haul.

      This has reminded me of the adage that we cannot live our lives fully if we live in fear of death. This is also what makes a hero, in my belief system — someone who lives by Patrick Henry’s motto, “Give me liberty or give me death.” (He’s an American Revolution-era hero)

      What are we willing to die for? Might that become the question?

  4. Nancy
    | Reply

    How can folks start by agreeing to disagree?
    Are there ways to make each other feel safe and respected enough to hope to compromise?
    I think starting with a hug would change this downward spiral. Check out THE HUG, a poem by Shel Silverstein.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I know that poem, Nancy. I read Where the Sidewalk Ends to my kids for many years. Hug O’ War

      I will not play at tug o’ war.
      I’d rather play at hug o’ war.
      Where everyone hugs, instead of tugs
      Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug,
      Where everyone kisses and everyone brings
      And everyone cuddles
      And everyone wins.

      Would that we lived in such a world.

  5. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Thanks, Janet. The issues you’ve raised in this series are things I think about every day, in one form or another. They may even together constitute the central issue of our time. I very much appreciate and admire your effort to break it down and try to understand it better, and I’ve benefitted from the time I’ve spent mulling each of your posts. And this song . . . well, it frankly brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps mercy is not only an act of compassion toward others, but to ourselves, when we let go of the anger that can so easily — and perhaps even justifiably — consume us. Perhaps this is at the very heart of restoring civil discourse.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Tim. This song has long brought tears to my eyes. But never before has it seemed so timely.

      I read your comment today while at lunch, en route to Philadelphia. And, as a result I think, noticed other ways we have to divide us. I used to divide the world into sailboat lovers and motorboat lovers, or tea or coffee drinkers. Today, I divided it between those who pass only on the left (the way the law reads) and those who hang out in the left lane, oblivious to the fact that their ignorance is inching the earth a few degrees off its axis. And wow, how I wrote out THAT “civil discourse” in my head. There have always been Us vs. Them. AND, how lovely our world would be if we could just be genuinely curious about how-the-hell-they-ever-got-that-way, rather than wanting to fix them.

      I’m still working on that.

  6. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I’ll be interested to read more posts about your question (and answer): “How might I best balance self-care with activism?” A holistic health practitioner, that’s of particular interest to me.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie. I’m always so tickled when you stop by. Thank you for that. And for your question on self-care.

      I’ve long held that self-care is quite subjective. I’m a big hot tup-bubble bath afficionado. But others might not be. I guess I believe that a big part of true self-care is listening to ourselves enough to know what we need. Listening, journaling, praying, meditating … many paths lead to Rome. How would you put it?

      • Laurie Buchanan
        | Reply

        Janet —

        To me, self-care is a deliberate choice to gift ourself with people, places, things, events, and opportunities that recharge our personal battery and promote whole health—body, mind, and spirit.

        I love your observation: “There are many paths to Rome.” In addition to what you’ve listed, I’ll add yoga, walking meditation, and gratitude. I also pay attention to what I ingest… not just what I put in my mouth, but to what I watch and listen to as well. I intentionally choose things are are positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Oh yes. Good food. And sufficient sleep. And enough exercise. All important. I like your emphasis on the “deliberate choice.” No wonder you wrote an entire book (Note to Self, now available) on self-care.

          Thanks for round two. 🙂

  7. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet, your lingering questions are relevant and thought-provoking. I especially like “how do I balance self-care with activism”. Clearly, we can’t help others until our own needs are met. Thank you for this in-depth , well-researched series. Just raising the question about civility encourages a thoughtful dialogue in this rancorous time. Well done!

  8. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Nope, I think you hit them all–the second one definitely concerns me the most. I am so afraid we will get use to politicians lying and ignore it and then where will we be?

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Your comment snuck by me while my eyes were averted. So sorry, Susan. That second question, how do we know what we know, has shadowed me since high school. Maybe that’s why skepticism has long been so appealing to me. I’m exploring lately how we might better detect “false news.” It’s not easy. Instinct informs me, but then we probably all think we are well served by our instinct. I’m hoping I’ll come with something a bit more concrete by fall.

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